The DeathMatch (DM) setting in Age of Kings results in a vastly different game than the normal "Random Game", usually called Random Match (RM) by most players. It can be very intimidating for a RM player to play DM and actually LOSE a game in less than 5 minutes!
If, however, you learn some basics in the DM Opening, you can survive the initial rush and enjoy a longer, more interesting game. DM games offer incredible battles, frantic action, and (yes, RMers) even resource management. DM game's first 20 minutes are dramatically different from RM games and can really bring a hell of a rush to players - I hope that RM players give DM a real chance, you may just like it!
This article assumes the following DM settings (which happen to be the most popular with most of the top DMers). Also, please note that this article is all about survival and doesn't explore anything in the DM game beyond that. Once you can survive the first few minutes, you are then ready to explore what DM has to offer (which we will talk about in future articles!) The takeaway item here is that this article does not give a good "flavor" of the full DM game at all! At the end there is an example walk thru of a Frank start.
- Map: Tiny Arabia
- Population: 200
- Age: Post-Imperial
- Reveal: Explored
- Speed: Fast (2.0)
- Victory: Conquest
- (No cheats, of course)
Getting started - what you start with
NOTE: Chinese start with 19,850 Food and 3 more villagers for a total of 6 (hehe, a "no brainer" tradeoff that gives Chinese a real advantage in early DM!)
- 3 Villagers w/ Loom
- 1 Light Cavalry (Teutons only get a Scout)
- 1 Town Center
- 20,000 Food; 20,000 Wood; 10,000 Gold; 5,000 Stone
First: Make tons of villagers
The very first thing you should do in a DM game is hit the hotkeys to select your town center and create villagers: H (hold SHIFT) C C C The SHIFT key will queue units 5 at a time, shortening the number of clicks you have to do to fill the queue. You will need lots of villagers to win a competitive DM game, over 100 potentially! So keep em coming!
Second: Build a house and Stables or Barracks
Non-Chinese civs must build a house fast (the Cinese start will be discussed later, so we will ignore them for now)! Otherwise your villager and military production will shut down fast. It is an eye-opener for an RM player to find out how many houses (or TCs/Castles which provide "food units") you will need in just a few minutes... So, grab 1 your villagers and get a house down right where he/she is standing.
Your 2nd and 3rd villager should frame out several Stables (hotkey, V-L, hold SHIFT and click multiple times to set multiple foundations at once) and start building one asap. Your new buildings should be touching (or very close together) so your villagers automatically move to an unbuilt one after the finish one. Civs that don't have Paladins or Heavy Camels (Brits, Goths, Japanese, and Vikings) should build Barracks (hotkey, V-B) instead. Your first villager should assist with these military buildings as soon as they are done with one house. You can set the gather point from your TC (hotkey I) to be an unbuilt Stable/Barracks to get those villagers to work fast as well - you NEED these buildings up fast. NOTE: It is imperative that as soon as a Stable/Barracks is completed, you should fill the queue with the unit you are creating (Paladin, Heavy Camel, or Pikeman--use the hotkey with SHIFT to queue up 15 at a time!). If you have 5 Stables fully queued, that is 75 units coming fast! The name of the game is mass quantities! NOTE: as a DM player, you MUST know the hotkeys. See this post for a handy one-page hotkey reference: Also, it is important to note that the multiple-builder penalty (see ) should be ignored in the initial steps in DM. The most important thing is to get these military buildings built!
After your Stables (say 5 or more?) are done, you will need to focus on housing. You will need tons of housing because 1.) early on nothing is worse than having villagers and units queued but not coming out because of lack of houses 2.) Castles frequently get destroyed, having plenty of houses prevents housing shortage mid-game.
Third: What to do with your LC?
Choice time: go attack (noting that attacking your enemy's first few villagers can actually gain very serious advantage); stay at home as defense vs enemy LCs; or scout out your enemies w/o attacking.
If you elect to harass your enemy early, take your LC (press comma key) and send it to the enemy's base fast using the Patrol hotkey (z). To quickly locate the enemies base, just look on the map for two gold mines or berry bushes. Open land with berry bushes are good clues since everyone's starting Town Center is within 1 screen of a berry patch. If you can harass your enemy, kill a villager or two, your in great shape. Note that your Light Cavalry is much stronger than the scout in RM play and can do some serious damage! As soon as your scout locates the enemy begin killing villagers. It takes about 4 strikes to kill one villager. If there is a camel or paladin there just kill a villager or 2, as killing 1 villager is much better than wounding 1 paladin or camel.
Expert Tip: If you can learn how to spot where your enemy might be and use the comma (,) to select your LC, patrol (Z), and right click where the enemy is RIGHT when the game starts, your LC is likely to do much more "important" damage. You need to execute those commands in less than 4 seconds to not delay your peons too much.
The next buildings
After you get some units coming, some defensive Castles (say 2 or 3 near your initial TC and houses), additional TCs, and more military buildings are needed. Getting more TCs is very important so you can have multiple villager production sites - keep them coming, you need over 100!
A neat tric
k is to drop a Market early and trade wood AND food for gold while the price is still good (drive the price from 85 to 17 and get the good value for yourself!). The battle for gold will be a key element of DM play. If you can trade before your enemy, then you get more of the free stuff AND they get much less when they decide to trade for gold - hehe, surprise!
Offense or Defense?
There are two options in the first five minutes, either to defend within the first five minutes, or to take the fight to the enemy within the first 5 minutes. Each start varies civ to civ. You have to know your own civ as well as the enemies. Some civilizations are natural rushes such as Chinese or Franks, while others such as Britons and Vikings must defend. The units most likely to rush with are paladins or camels. The best unit to defend with are camels but if your civilization dosen't have camels, pikemen are the second best substitution. Below are several opening strategies for you to try out. All of them pick up where we left off above...
The Pikeman Defense
In any DM game you should expect a rush. A quick Paladin rush is a very common opening and you better be prepared to deal with it.
If you are banking on Pikemen, then, after following the steps above, you have pikemen coming out from your barracks early--hopefully before the enemy LC starts picking on your villagers. If not, garrison a few villagers in your TC and try to kill that LC fast. You will need a 3 to 1 ratio of pikemen to Paladins to survive a real Paladin rush. Also, you must have some defensive Castles/TCs/bombard towers. You can get bombard towers (if your civ has them) down much faster than Castles and they work great in a cluster as your pikemen face off vs a real Paladin rush. They also make good cover for your villagers when they are putting down a Castle. Its better to have some btowers BEFORE your castle since the Castle builds so slowly...
Remember, if you can hold your own with Pikemen vs Paladins/Camels, you are actually winning. Pikemen are "free" since they cost no gold and you can "wear down" your opponent by using up their gold.
Do the Rush Yourself
The best defense is a good offense Follow the steps above, but go Stables and build Paladins. They key here is to hit fast and furious. Set the gather point of your Stables to be your enemy's base.
Example Frank Rush
Now, first, Mr.Fixit is no DM expert, so this recording has his typical "early game" flaws... Game recording: DM-Example-MrFixit-FrankStart.zip
||H shift C C C (start creating 15 vills)|
||, Z right click near enemy (guess) (send LC to enemy on patrol)|
||. B E click next to vill (build house with a vill and don't walk anywhere|
||. V L shift CLICK 4 times (start building 4 stables)|
||H I click on nearest Stable (set gather point so new villies help with the Stables)|
||. right click on Stable (get that 3rd slacker villie to help with the stables)|
||House done, lasso villie, B E shift CLICK 7 times (start 7 more houses)|
||Stable done, enemy found, CTRL L shift N N N I right click at enemy (start 15 paladins and send them to enemy)|
||First Paladin done, builders being separated to speed building creation (notice 2 idle villies - DOH)|
||2nd and 3rd Stables done, select each stable and shift N N N and set gather point like before, castle started|
||Castle done, 11 paladins on the field, new TC started near gold, 6 stables (1 not producing...)|
||All gold spent! (So much for "unlimited resources"), trebs/paladins in queue|
||CPU resigns, I have 2 castles, 2 TCs, 6 stables, tons of paladins, trebs coming, no gold|
Notice how when I got my Market down, the trade value stunk. The CPU kicked my butt to the free gold!
Now, watch an expert (Elfanor) execute a devastating Paladin rush in round 1 of the EWO DM Tourney:
The Chinese Opening
Generally speaking, building a 2nd TC right away is the surest way to lose to a rusher. The exception to this rule is the Chinese civ. They have two huge benefits that make this possible.
a.) They start out with 3 extra villagers b.) TC's support a pop of 10.
This means that if you put 3 villagers on building a second TC right away you can still outbuild any other civ. Your 2nd TC will house 10 pop. Your first will have 10, for a total of 20 pop. That means any other civ has to build 3 houses to match your capacity after 2 TCs. This makes a Chinese TC start very playable. Your other three villagers should work on Stables or Barracks as mentioned above. Even more important is that now you can pump out villagers at double the rate of your opponent. This directly translates into further surpassing your opponent in builds. Instead of focusing on houses, a Chinese player can concentrate on putting up more TCs (at 10 pop, they are like 2 houses that can defend and produce villies) and getting trebs up faster and in greater numbers than your opponent. Of course, be careful not to put up castles too early. Chinese also has Bombard Towers which can be used as defense before you drop several Castles.
Briton Opening (Defensive)
Give a Brit player enough time and you will lose. Many top DMers think they are the most powerful civ in the game. However since they don't get HCamels *or* Paladins, they are at a severe disadvantage early in the game. In the opening described above, Brit players should go with Barracks/Pikemen. Also, due to the defensive stance, keep your LC for protection when the enemy LC comes to town. You don't want the enemy LC rampant in your town slowing your builds. Put every new villager on barracks until you have at *least* a dozen. When the Paladins come, it's time for even more micromanagement. Most players will set a gather point for their paladins somewhere near your town. When you see a certain villie getting attacked, run him to your barracks (if he doesn't die first) and feed the horses to your outcoming pikes. Because the Paladins have to cross the map, you should have a numbers advantage on your opponent in Pike-Paladin ratio. As the rush continues, your goal is to increase that ratio. If you don't you lose. It's also important to get a castle up fairly early because a treb can stop forward building. Once you do have a castle up, pump out trebs exclusively. Plant the trebs on the outskirts of your town (as far away as possible, while still being able to provide security from paladins). It will stop all forward building in it's range. Frank rushers especially, tend to get overzealous in their building. They really like to put those cheap castles and the stables as close as possible. Good treb placement will keep them at at least 17 tiles away from your town. That breathing room is so important. It's only a matter of time before masses of trebs come your way, so it's a good idea to build stables when you can, in anticipation of this. Also, if you have the wherewithal (you'll be really stretched here) have villagers repair your trebs. This works great if 1 or 2 enemy trebs are attacking your treb(s). Simply have a villie repair it while it knocks out the other trebs. (It costs wood and gold, but it certainly beats the time setback of losing a treb: 50 build seconds, lag, mouse moving time, and travel time to get back in place...that's typically over 1 game minute)
Once you feel you've beat the rush, it's longbowmen time. The rest of the game should be mop up if you were successful. The Frank rush is GOLD intensive. It involves pumping out masses of trebs and paladins. Rushers may use up between 6000 to ALL of their initial gold in the rush. You on the otherhand have only used gold on trebs. This is the point where the Frank player is weakest. If you are not contained at this point, the rush has failed, and in all probability you will win. Now just cover the gold. Once you can amass 50+ longbowmen, they will be nearly unstoppable. The only think to watch out for are Onagers, castles, bombard cannons and REALLY REALLY large masses of skirmishers. For the most part, if there are fewer skirmishers than longbowmen, and the skirmishers aren't brit, with a +2 range, your longbowmen will beat even skirmishers. As for castles and bombards, well, that's what trebs are made for.